Himeji City Museum of Literature 
84 Yamanoi-cho
Himeji-shi, Hyogo Prefecture 
670 Japan

Tadao Ando 1991 (Main Building) and 1996 (Annex)

The Museum of Literature, built to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of Himeji City becoming a municipality, is located on a hill not far from Himeji Castle, one of Japan's cultural treasures. The museum, devoted to the philosopher Tetsuro Watsuji, displays material relating to Watsuji and eight other writers and philosophers from the region. It consists of two buildings designed by Tadao Ando: the first, the Main Building, completed in 1991 and a separate but adjacent Annex completed in 1996 - as well as an existing traditional Japanese style pavilion, the Bokeitei.

Between the Main Building and the Annex water gently cascades along the site connecting the three buildings of the museum to each other and the architecture to the landscape. 

To enter the Main Building the visitor ascends a linear ramp that traverses the stepped shallow pool of water that is lined with crushed stone. The form of the building itself, which contains exhibition space and a lecture hall, is composed of two cubic volumes, whose structure is based on a nine-unit grid, that intersect at a thirty-degree angle. A concrete cylinder of forty meters in diameter houses the exhibition space and surrounds one of the cubes, its interior perimeter lined with a ramp that that gently winds its way up to the second floor. Exterior spaces of this building provide direct views to Himeji Castle in the near distance. In this visual construction and topographical relationship Ando sets up an intentional dialogue between the old and the new.

While the older Main Building functions primarily as exhibition space, the newer Annex serves as a library and archive for the works of the writer Ryotaro Shiba. It also consists of intersecting geometrical forms which are set up on axis to the Main Building; a planar concrete wall two stories high penetrates a rectangular glass volume at an angle to it. Inscribed within the glass volume, at a forty-five degree angle to it, is a concrete cube whose interior perimeter is lined with a stairway. 


The walls of the narrow stairway are in a polished concrete and the risers, treads and landings in a well crafted wood finish. In the center of this concrete cube is a vertical shaft that pierces the roof to allow natural light to enter, its lower portion lined with a display of books on a structure of wooden shelving that extends from ground floor to second floor, becoming a railing on the second floor.

A shallow pool of water on the exterior perimeter of the Annex building intersects with the glass and concrete volumes, extending the facade vertically onto the reflective surface of the water. A horizontal window placed at floor and water level of the concrete wall that wraps to enclose a double-height lounge area allows for a continual relation between exterior and interior and a constant play of surfaces between the reflection of the glass and the reflection of the water.

Kari Silloway 2004  

How to visit

Take City Bus bound for Oikedai or Shosha Eki from JR Himeji Station in Himeji to Ichinobashi Bungakukan Mae or Shinki Bus (Route Nos. 11 - 13, 41 - 43, 45, 51, or 52) from JR Himeji Station in Himeji to Ichinobashi Bungakukan Mae.

The museum is open 10am - 5pm, closed Mondays and December 25 - January 5.

For more information see www.city.himeji.hyogo.jp/bungaku (in Japanese only), email kyo-bungaku@city.himeji.hyogo.jp or telephone +81-792-93-8228.

Books and other web sites

Click the book title to view and to order direct from


Tadao Ando: Light and Water
Tadao Ando, Kenneth Frampton, Massimo Vignelli

Readable, beautifully presented book featuring this and other works by Tadao Ando


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